The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the UN reflects a broad view of culture that encompasses the contribution of culture to sustainable development including through innovation. However, the methodologies that allow measurement of the contribution of culture in innovation processes, but also assessment of the cultural and creative ecosystems as sources of artistic innovation still need to be developed further. Despite the increasing importance of artistic innovation for states, territorial powers, and industrial systems both in the Global North and the Global South, its social, economic, and cultural impacts remain ‘hidden’ from traditional measures of innovation. Based on existing literature and empirical research led in France and in the United Arab Emirates, this paper identifies social processes that accompany 1) production, 2) social assimilation and 3) territorial anchors of artistic innovation, as well as research questions that these social processes raise. We suggest that a systemic perspective that adopts a bottom-up and empirical sociological approach can reveal the social indicators of artistic innovation that are still unexplored or underestimated. Our reflection complements the current conceptualisations of artistic innovation offered by other analyses and disciplines and may be of use to researchers working in related fields.